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by Belinda Noble

There is a pandemic and our lives have changed. Many of us are experiencing hardship, anxiety and sickness.

But the pandemic and its economic consequences will fade. Human-caused global warming, however, will outlast us all.

And as the world keeps heating, the fossil fuel lobby is pushing harder than ever. Every crisis is an opportunity, and the big polluters are making hay while we’re distracted by COVID-19.

Despite the worst fire season in history and more mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, coal mining has been approved under Sydney’s water reservoir, the Federal Government has called for an expansion of coal, and the Adani CEO was caught admitting he planned to increase the mine’s size by six times.

A quick summary for anyone’s who has forgotten – we need to stop around 45% of our greenhouse gas pollution by 2030 to have any chance of saving coral reefs, ecosystems and a planet that is generally a nice place to live. We can’t do that if we keep using coal and gas.

Our industry is part of the problem

In America, PR and advertising grew up with tobacco and fossil fuels. The founders of the mega firms Hill & Knowlton, Edelman and others, used their skills to sell these products to an unsuspecting public despite proof about the dangers. They did this primarily by sowing doubt about science.

In Australia, the same tactics have been used to defend and promote big polluters; third party advocacy, junk opinions from handpicked scientists, phoney front groups, astroturfing, advocacy advertising, and using financial clout to buy favourable news coverage and political support.

Following our blackest of summers, the narrative of deniers shifted to acknowledging climate change and promising to do something about it – but then doing everything except cutting emissions. Greenwashing is the new climate denial.

So, who are the comms people, the agencies and the spin doctors helping big polluters tell half-truths and maintain profits at our expense? It’s time to call them out and leave them behind.

Start here 

A group of communications professionals has got together to create a climate pledge in three parts; aware, declare and act. 

While you can choose either option – the most powerful thing you can do now is declare that your work;

‘… will not support any activities, organisations or individuals that promote:

·       the growth of fossil fuels

·       the continuation of high greenhouse gas pollution as ‘business as usual’

·       deception, distraction or spin around science or climate actions.’

We want all communicators to declare for the climate, to stop promoting fossil fuels and to never, ever spin scientific facts.

Polluters can’t exist without a social licence. People in our industry create that licence, and when they do so, they’re damaging all our reputations.

We should be shaping the path forward by talking about how the science is settled, that science is not left wing, that Australia is blessed with natural resources to power renewables and, that we have the tools to create a sustainable future and we need to use them now.

And if your employer, agency or client isn’t moving towards zero emissions, then you should move – to another job. Put your talents towards a real future.